True Colors by Gina Clowes

29 Oct

The following review originally appeared as a Facebook post by Lew Hendrix. An accomplished player of the banjo (among other instruments), Lew gets just a little technical here and there for a non-banjoist such as myself, but I found the review a pleasure to read and interesting enough that I downloaded the album in question. (Of which I’m glad.)

 

True Colors, a review

Lew Hendrix

 

51GutcoITeL._AC_US200_I want my music friends to take note of Gina Clowes‘s first album True Colors. It amazes me, for there is something highly original here, something that I can’t see where it comes from, or just how it’s done. I knew Gina was a fine banjo picker before I got this CD, but it still astounded me.

When you hear True Colors, don’t expect traditional bluegrass banjo consisting of 3-finger rolls, flattened 3rds and 7ths, interspersed with a crop of standard licks. Don’t expect newgrass either. Of course, Gina uses banjo rolls, but also novel licks, pinches, chokes, and full chords whapped hard or expressed subtly where you don’t expect them. Still, these novel, unexpected, sounds seem just right in context. Gina’s vocals are interesting too. Her voice often sounds quiet, but she alters it to sound sarcastic, wistful, and the like, to fit the mood of the song. I find the music so interesting that I keep playing certain cuts over and over to catch a certain phrase, vocal intonation, or a gob of banjo notes and chords.

All but one of the songs and tunes are original. Some shade wonderfully into a different

Gina Clowes

Gina Clowes

genre, such as gypsy jazz, western swing, or baroque, becoming musical fusions. The lyrical songs are just as diverse in their topics and moods. The lack of traditional cabin-in-the-hills songs and only one love-lost song makes room for songs of positive love (“True Colors”), personal strength (“Puppet Show”), wife abuse (“For Better or for Worse”), finding God (“Looking for Sunshine”), and a bittersweet song of temporary separation (“I’ll Stay Home”).

Technically, the recording of the songs is great: Each instrument and voice comes through clearly and with much better tone than most bluegrass CDs have. Mark Stoffel is one of three people listed in the recording and mixing, and this sounds like his work.

If you don’t want to take my word on True Colors, you can listen to snippets on Amazon.
P.S. A caveat: I’m biased toward this sort of “bluegrass from a different mother.” My attention span usually ends in the middle of a traditional bluegrass album.

 

Reviewer Lew Hendrix plays a pretty mean banjo himself. Based in the Carbondale, Illinois area, he performs and teaches in that locale.

 

 

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